The rise of the new generation of chess in India | Latest India News

In the space of eight months, the number of Indians who have defeated the world’s best chess player, Magnus Carlsen, has increased from two to five. Before 2022, only Viswanathan Anand and P Harikrishna had managed to outsmart the reigning five-time world champion. Now, the teenage trio of R Praggnanandhaa, Arjun Erigaisi and D Gukesh can claim the feat as well.

Praggnanandhaa, 17, has beaten the Norwegian three times; Erigaisi, 19, and Gukesh, 16, picked up their first victories over the world champion at the Aimchess Rapid tournament in October. In doing so, they offered the most resounding proof of their willingness to challenge the best players in the world.

“I think the importance [of the results] is for their self-confidence,” said Anand, who had many intriguing battles with Carlsen. “They saw that even against the best player in the world, someone who is very difficult to get a point against, they can do it. This is the positive message they should take away. It doesn’t matter if it’s quick chess or anything else. It’s just as hard to beat it in rapid as it is in any other time check.

While an intrinsic aptitude for chess is a common factor helping them reach milestones in their teenage years, there are subtle differences in the playstyles of the three young players, and their attacking and defensive preferences provide an interesting comparison. .

So which format do they prefer? What are their favorite opening moves? How do they handle the pressure in a final phase when time is running out?

Favorite formats

“Gukesh has focused a lot on classical chess. That’s clearly his priority. He only plays those quick (10 minutes to 60 minutes) and blitz (less than 10 minutes) events if they don’t conflict with his engagements in classical events,” said grandmaster Srinath Narayanan, who was the coach of the Indian A team that finished fourth at the 44th Chess Olympiad in Mahabalipuram in August.

“Praggnanandhaa, on the other hand, was popular mainly because of his exploits in the Champions Chess Tour, which is a fast-paced online tournament. I think Praggnanandhaa didn’t play as many classic games as the other two. he has now done much better in that format than in classical. Srinath added that he thinks “it’s only a matter of time” before Praggnanandhaa starts doing well in classical chess as well.

When it comes to formats, Erigaisi doesn’t seem to have a clear favorite. “Arjun was balanced. He played a lot of classic chess and was active and consistent in all the different online rapid tournaments. He’s a bit more balanced comparatively,” Srinath said.

This is evident from the ELO ratings of these three players in the classic format. While Gukesh and Erigaisi broke the 2700 mark earlier this year, Praggnanandhaa’s rating is 2687.

Different styles

Anand believes the styles of the three players are constantly evolving. “There are small variations. Arjun is closest to a universal style, while Pragg and Gukesh lean heavily towards aggressive stances. Arjun is probably the most positional of the lot. He likes to play a mix of calm stances and aggressive moves. But they are all working on all aspects,” Anand said.

Srinath cites Gukesh’s recent victory over Carlsen, in 29 moves, to underline the greater strength of the player. It looked like the Norwegian was on the verge of a routine 25 move victory in the match, only to fall into a cleverly set trap for his queen.

“In terms of the technical aspects, I think Gukesh is incredibly resourceful. That’s his USP,” Srinath said. also happen with Magnus. He was doing very well in the match against Gukesh. Magnus forgot that his queen was getting trapped. It was game over for him after that. It may seem like luck, but it doesn’t. is not.

Srinath attributes this trait to Gukesh’s formative training. “He stayed religiously away from the motors (in the early years). It probably trained him to get a glimpse of what can be difficult for humans, even if it’s not among the best moves the engines recommend. It throws opponents off guard. It’s not easy to understand Gukesh’s moves as easily as other top players.

Praggnanandhaa, too, was largely kept out of the motors during his formative years by coach RB Ramesh. According to V Saravanan, an international master from Chennai, Praggnanandhaa’s playing is all about dynamism.

“Pragg doesn’t care much about hardware. It goes for activity. His game involves a bit of play,” said Saravanan, citing as examples Praggnanandhaa’s match against Pranav Anand, another teenage grandmaster, in the recently concluded Asian Championship and his first victory over Carlsen.

“When the position became even, the match looked likely to end in a draw if it continued as normal. Pragg didn’t even bat an eyelid before sacrificing a pawn and getting into the activity. Most of his pay is dynamic in nature. The very first time he beat Carlsen in blitz, that’s what he did. He went for a very dynamic position. Of course, Carlsen blundered and lost the part.

Another characteristic of Praggnanandhaa’s playing is his unflappable temper. India’s match against Azerbaijan at the 44th Chess Olympiad in August is a good example.

“What has stood out recently is his incredible composure in critical situations under time pressure,” Srinath observed. “There was this game in the Olympics against Azerbaijan where the game was quite even. If Pragg didn’t win that game, India’s medal chances were lost. They were down 1-2 and the position was bad for Pragg. While the opponent was tense and animated, Pragg was just completely calm and managed to outplay his opponent in a critical moment. It was a very important moment in India B by winning a bronze medal.

Saravanan regards Erigaisi as “almost diametrically opposed” to Praggnanandhaa.

“Arjun is basically a positional player. He puts his pieces in the right place. He plays chess well. He sticks to the principles. There’s usually not a single misplaced piece…that kind of style. He is probably the best of the three in terms of calculation.

Openings and ending games

Chess players typically spend a lot of time on various opening preparations, knowing that this lays the groundwork that often dictates the course of a game. You might be a master at getting out of tricky late-game situations, but that matters little in a game between evenly matched players if the opening isn’t up to snuff.

“One thing I can say is that Pragg goes for clean openings,” Saravanan noted. “In a dynamic opening, you keep the stance open but under your control. That’s what Gukesh and Erigaisi do. ​​Pragg immediately opts for hand-to-hand combat. That means he can be hit and miss. For example, he there’s the Sicilian Najdorf, which is an extremely tactical opening. You can’t play by general instinct or understanding in such openings. You have to calculate like a machine.

In general, however, the younger generation of Indian GMs are not obsessed with any particular opening system. This perhaps sets these players apart from the likes of Anand, Harikrishna and Vidit Gujrathi, who would seek to master one system before trying another.

All of them, according to Srinath, have work to do on the endgame though.

“Everyone can improve in this aspect. As a rule, much attention is paid to openings and intermediate matches. As they are quite young, they just haven’t seen as many positions as an older person at the top level,” he said.

Over the next few years, as they evolve, their specific methods and preferences are likely to change. As long as they are able to maximize their potential, chess-loving Indians can sit back and savor what each of the three has to offer.


  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Vivek Krishnan is a sports journalist who enjoys covering cricket and football among other disciplines. He wanted to play cricket himself, but was content to watch and write about different sports.
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